Leverage Employee Listening to Spark Constructive Conversations

By Kate Miller on May 26, 2023 at 3:37pm

By Kate Miller, Director of Employee Experience, Robert Half

Employees aren’t satisfied to leave decisions that affect them to executives anymore. They want to be co-creators of their workplace experience.

Research featured in Robert Half’s latest Demand for Skilled Talent Report shows a significant portion of the U.S. workforce (46%) is still eager for a job change in the first half of this year. Those most likely to make a move are 18- to 25-year-olds (60%), employees with two to four years’ tenure (55%) and working parents (53%). Their reasons range from insufficient pay to the lack of work-life balance to dissatisfaction with the corporate culture.

To get to the bottom of their varying reasons for wanting a change, organizations must listen carefully to — and be ready to act on — what employees have to say.

Employee listening is the process of collecting, analyzing and sharing employee feedback. It can be done through an ongoing employee survey strategy that measures the full life cycle of the employee experience through new hire, pulse and exit surveys.

In this way, organizations can apply evidence-based human capital data, employee engagement research and benchmarking to their talent management and strategic business initiatives.

Driving conversations at the team level

Conversations about employee survey results at the team level are the biggest driver of an effective employee listening strategy.

Team conversations about survey results build employees’ confidence in the survey process — they see their feedback is received and truly considered, and they have an opportunity to be a part of the solution.

“When we complete a survey, we generate reports for every manager who has at least five employees who participated. And we make sure managers are equipped with resources to share the results with their team and facilitate a conversation to better understand what is working well and what support employees need,” says Ann Adams, manager, employee listening.

These conversations are designed to be safe spaces for transparent discussions that strengthen the team, identify barriers and support high performance. Teams are encouraged to identify a single area for action, set goals and discuss progress in regularly scheduled team meetings.

Talk that leads to action

Companies may see even better results when they share employee survey feedback with subject matter experts (SMEs) whose teams provide the programs, products and services that impact employees’ work experiences. This allows those leaders to view employees’ direct feedback and recommendations for how to implement changes in the functions they lead. We encourage our SMEs to leverage these insights when designing solutions for our people.

Employee surveys don’t provide all the answers — but often, they help us know what topics employees feel strongly about and need to be explored further. And while some feedback can easily be turned into action by teams, other areas are more complex and require a dedicated group of problem solvers. For example, we learned that our U.S. new hires needed greater support and consistency when they join. This feedback led us to implement a completely revamped onboarding program and a team of dedicated partners.

At Robert Half, we tap into our “Culture Ambassadors” — volunteers from across the organization who help us understand employee feedback and craft solutions to ensure our efforts have impact. For example, we leveraged results to set up an employee focus group on our office redesign to ensure we’re supporting collaboration needs in our relatively new hybrid work environment.

A robust employee listening strategy requires the close participation of people managers, so it’s important they receive support — and have accountability — for survey participation, results and action planning. To help them, we provide conversation guides, conversation starters and guidance on taking action in partnership with their team.

We also include a question in our surveys about employees’ confidence that action will be taken as a result of the feedback provided. That promotes even more accountability for local leaders and teams.

4 tips for effective employee listening programs

1. Only ask if you intend to act. The only thing worse than failing to ask your employees for input is to ask and not respond to their preferences and concerns. Action doesn’t have to cost money, but it requires executive support.

2. Ensure your system lends itself to quick and efficient reporting. Survey results should be shared and acted upon quickly. A sustainable program must include automating immediate team survey reports and equipping people leaders to facilitate authentic dialogue with their teams in a timely manner.

3. Provide visibility to key insights. Involve SMEs who lead your people programs and services in the survey design to ensure the feedback will inform their business plans and make it easy for them to access the data.

4. Communicate what you heard and how you’re responding. If employees don’t hear what actions have been taken (and attributed) in response to the feedback they provided, they assume nothing was done.

At Robert Half, we aim to understand our employees’ experiences holistically so we can identify engagement strategies and programs that are working well and where we can do more to address what matters most to our people. This has proved a winning strategy for us, and I believe employee listening can be a culture-changing advantage for employees and their managers in almost any size organization.

Follow Kate Miller on LinkedIn.

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